Chinese lanterns extinguish Vietnamese rivals

Chinese plastic and paper lanterns are flooding the Vietnamese market ahead of the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festivals, gradually pushing local rivals out of the fray.

A traditional lantern used during the Mid-Autumn Festival. With the festival fast approaching, Chinese lanterns are edging out their Vietnamese competitors with traders saying they are sturdier and take less space (Photo: SGGP)

Fewer and fewer household businesses are making the lanterns because traders do not want to buy their products.
A trader said Vietnamese lanterns break easily and take up more space when being transported than Chinese plastic and paper lanterns.
While a truck can carry only a few hundred of the former, it can transport thousands of Chinese lanterns without mishap, he explained.
Vietnamese lanterns are also susceptible to tearing in rain.
Phu Binh parish on Lac Long Quan Street in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 11, once considered the cradle of traditional lanterns, now has only 15 families making them. Just two years ago there were 50.
Nguyen Van Binh, who has been making and selling them in Phu Binh for 30 years, said very few people take up this occupation because of lack of demand and low wages.
Phu Binh, which used to supply the national market, will only churn out a few thousand pieces this year. 
To meet customers’ demands and earn profits, 70 percent of wholesalers in Phu Binh have shifted to selling Chinese lanterns.
New Technique Company based in District 8 launched 3D lanterns in 2005. They were exported to Australia and easily held their own against their plastic Chinese rivals but have virtually disappeared from the market.
Huyen Van Khanh, the company’s general director, said this year the company would make 20,000 pieces in 10 designs.
It has priced its lanterns at just VND9,000-15,000, 20 percent less than last year and 30 percent less than the Chinese products, he said.
Yet, with the festival coming soon, the company has failed to find distributors for its products. Many major supermarkets have not put them on their shelves though the Government has launched a program to encourage consumers to buy Vietnamese goods.
At Binh Tay and Kim Bien markets in Districts 6 and 5, wholesalers have refused to buy the traditional lanterns saying they do not look attractive and take up much space.
Chinese lanterns, on the other hand, are doing very well. Wholesalers began looking for provincial retailers in late May and offered flexible financial terms even as their domestic rivals waited for buyers to come to them.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, which falls on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, is primarily for children who light lanterns in the evening, when the full moon is thought to be at its brightest during the year.

By Le Mai Thi – Translated by Hoang Yen

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